Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
House on the Beach, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina by BAKarquitectos
April 26th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: BAKarquitectos
First Prize Biennial of Architecture, Urbanism, Investigation and Theory 2009.
This work is the result of a process which has begun with the construction of a house in the same seaside town in a zone full of coniferous. So it is necessary to know the records to understand the proposal of this House.
BUILDING IN THE FOREST:
We propose choices which guarantee the survival of the natural environment.
Mar Azul is a place well-known for us since time ago, so when in 2004 we built our first work, we knew that we have to join in a land that despite of its worthy landscape, it has never count with a legal support that protect this patrimony of those which built with a unique aim: get the most out of the earth. This land neither count with a code that, understanding the logic of this privileged space, regulate resolving the difference between this inappropriate constructions and the possibility of building without losing the properties of the site. In addition to this situation, the habit of building “picturesque houses in a place of fantasy” is taming slowly the forest, which is nowadays owner of a strong wild presence. Operate in this site meant to know the maladjustments and see how the Architects can make an alternative contribution.
The answer was the proposal of architecture of minimums resources in the materials and in the form, not only as an aesthetic solution but as an ethical principle of recovery the rational use of the different available resources. This architecture must be incorporated to the landscape, looking to be part of the reality that already exists. To make it possible, is necessary to know “how to listen” what the sites tell us, so the firsts approaches must been free of old prejudices to can capture not only the tangible data but the atmospheres that the place gives us, those which we can only perceives if our looks are free of preconceptions. This meant we have to practice the exercise of “watching for the first time”. Consider the data, let the place invade us and imagine how the own project capitalizes them, this is critical to ensure that architecture and landscape are based.
We have already practice this exercise, going to Mar Azul in many opportunities, so we worth the strong presence of the landscape and we have known the microclimate the forest provides: the attenuation of the strong sea winds, the constant shadow of the trees protecting from the hot weather in the summer, but at the same time, producing a humid environment in the winter, and the fact that under the pines is smaller the amount of light during the whole year. We also knew that the forest does not require maintenance apart from removing the dry vegetation, unless other specie is introduced and broke the actual harmony.
Take advantage from what the environment give us:
Recognize this particularly microclimate was determinant to make choices in the aesthetic and constructive system of the house. It was necessary to gain light so it allows us to consider the entirely work as a “semi covered”, resolving it by using big glasses which provides, from the inside, greats views to the sea and to the landscape; an from the outside, reflects the nature making the work camouflages with it. The necessities of build the work as fast as possible and have no maintenance make us choice the reinforced concrete as the constructive solution. The shadow allows us to use this material because it provides thermal protection from the spring to the autumn and its conditioning in the winter was not relevant because it is a Summer House. The waterproof insulation was resolved by a high compactness concrete and studying the outer skin to make faster the water drainage.
Judicious use of available resources:
The expressiveness qualities of the reinforced concrete and its properties of resistance and impermeability, make it unnecessary to use a surface finish, gaining a low budget in its execution without a future maintenance. On the other hand, the color and texture of the concrete made by formwork of wood tables provides a strong and mimetic presence at the same time, allowing the work be in harmony with the landscape. In brief, an outer skin made by two materials: glass and concrete, resolve the integration with the landscape and gives us an answer to the Functional, Formal and Structural issues of the surface finish and maintenance.
With the same canon, the resolution of the outdoors activities was the result of making the minimum intervention in the environment. We avoid any kind of landscaping, not only because of the convenience of doesn’t have to maintain it but us avoid the unnecessary bounds in a place without a lot of constructions yet. We like this strong homogeneity in the forest, made by coniferous, acacias, and some high grassland that are the dominant vegetation in the dunes zone near the sea.
BUILDING IN THE BEACH
Our first work of concrete in Mar Azul has good acceptation and after many engagement of houses with the same material placed always in the forest, comes us the commission to make a house of concrete near to the Beach. We hesitate at the beginning of using the same aesthetic and constructive system as it has born in relationship with the original environment, but finally we agree thinking we can make the necessary arrangements to use this system in such a different environment: the dune where the beach ends. It was fundamental to optimize the thermal insulation in a place subjected to the sunbeam in summer and winter and to a wet cold and strong gust of wind and rain. The resource to make it possible was: propose a house where the roof can be expansions of different locals, putting decks of wood over the slab, allowing different outdoors activities and operating as an “Umbrella” that prevents from sunbeams (as would be done by the forest in the other houses). We also have to control the effect of glare which produce the sunbeams when they reflect in the sand. We decided it was not convenient to make openings from floor to roof and that they must be protected with eaves apart from have control of their shape and position in relation with the path of the sun and the dominant winds. With these fundamental premises, we start the project of “House in the Beach”.
The land of 20mx47m where we have to intervene is placed a few meters away of the dune where ends the beach, in spite of it, the land is near of a house of big size which clogs in some parts the views to the sea. The rest of the views, free of near buildings, allows the enjoyment of small vegetation, acacias and tamarindos, where you can see the sea in one side and the forest in the other. The land has the particularly of presents in the center and in their outskirts an elevation of 3 meters of difference in relation to their sides. This particularity and the necessity of lift the building over the natural line on the land to gain views to the sea were fundamental issues in the proposal.
The clients, a young couple with 3 little children, arrived to our study asking for a house of concrete – …as it seems to has a low maintenance, and we liked the design of the others houses you have already made – they said – we need a big house with five or six bedrooms and large spaces of meeting but to be realized in two stages – they add. We suggest that, as the existing regulations allows it; they can consider building two different housing units, one of them the principal house in a size that allows us to built it in one stage and then, another for guesses. Satisfied with this proposal and with the aesthetic and constructive solution that the study had already done in the forest, the clients only conditioned the project by asking for gaining as much advantage as possible of the location: so near to the beach, while the bedrooms and the whole locals of the house have wonderful views to the sea.
The engagement for the first stage was a house with a master bedroom with own bathroom, two bedrooms to the daughter with a bathroom to be shared and a service bedroom for guests with a bathroom too. Diningroom and kitchen integrated grill and terrace as expansion, a semi-covered garage and a closed space to be used as a general storage and a space for the quadriclycle.
We focus our search for solutions trying to accommodate this program to this topography and particular environment, looking for gaining views to the sea without making significant changes to the dune. In relation with the path of the sun and the dominant winds, the house must be open to the NE and control its openings to the SO. The lateral facade to the SE, despite of been subjected to strong rains and winds, should have big openings to provide views to the sea. With this premises and working in the transversal section of the land, we note that if we put the principal floor plan of the house like a prism perpendicularly over the crest of the dune, we reach, in one end, views to the sea, while in the other end and under it, we can create an access plan at the same level of the street; and in the same place but over the principal prism create another plan which can be the master bedroom and its bathroom with a big terrace providing generous views to the whole land. We decided that the stair that organizes the three levels was a leading place, because of it; it has a strategic location and a spatial treatment.
The forestall proposal, trying to make the minimum intervention in the landscape, consisted in scheme retaining walls made of wood planks which tries to contain the dune in order to allow the growing of the zone’s typical vegetation.
The functional organization
After saving the difference of height between the street and the access level with the help of wood planks, it is accessed into the house by a semi-covered (which can be used as garage) where it is stressed a wall made of quebracho’s table formed by the gates that close the storage and also the entrance door. In this level it is placed a small hall, the guestroom with its bathroom and the internal input to the storage and the laundry. By the rise of the stair between concrete walls it is coming to the principal floor of the house. This is conformed by the kitchen, living and dinning –room integrated with expansions to the front and the back parts of the land and two bedrooms to the offspring with a bathroom. In parallel with the first stair is placed the one that leads to the last level of the house. By taking it, it is coming to a small hall from where it is acceded to a big terrace to the front part and another to the back part and also to the principal bedroom with its bathroom. This local has great views to the beach and through its grand opening it is acceded to the principal terrace from where can be enjoyed views to the whole landscape.
The structural solution
The whole house is resolved by walls and slabs of reinforced concrete. The versatility of this constructive system allows as resolving the important overhang of the semi-covered in the access as it don’t have support in one of its extremes, as we consider important to the project that the 3 levels of the house can’t be discovered from the front part. We resorted to an important hangover in the opposite extreme, where the dune falls abruptly, in order to make the house leans without changing the natural landscape.
It was used the same concrete of the other works in Mar Azul (H21 with fluidizer) a mixture with low amount of water that when forge create a concrete with a lot of compactness. As a result of this process, it is not necessary to employ any kind of facing, achieving a low budget in its terminations and a minimum or non posterior maintenance. The adaptation of the constructive system used in the forest for this place, consist in the use of “decks as umbrellas”. They are made by braces of wood seted to the slab on which the tables rely so that between them and the concrete ceiling is a space through which air flows. On the other hand , to improve the thermal insulation of the exterior walls it was build, in the interior part, a wall of air bricks revoked and painted, and also it was thought, in the whole locals, cross ventilation to make the maritime winds cool in the days of high temperature and to avoid using air conditioning system. The openings are made by aluminum; it was used open windows instead of sliding windows in order to avoid the accumulation of sand in the guides, and it was used double glass with air chamber to optimize the thermal insulation. The heating system, because of the fact that there is not natural gas in the zone, it was resolved with a system that agreed salamander, bottle gas stove and electrical resistances.
The whole interior septums are made by air-bricks revoked and painted with white latex. The bathrooms have ceramic facings in the walls which are not made by reinforced concrete. The floor is made by smooth cement divided by aluminum’s planks. The encounter between walls and floor was resolved with an aluminum profile as a socal.
It was design by the study; it is an agreed between immobile furniture made of concrete and mobile furniture made of recovered Canadian wood pine which comes from boxes of package’s engines. The table (resolved like a slab united to the septum which divides the kitchen and the living room), the closets, and the woodshed are made of concrete.